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Ricky Gervais is a mystery to me: he seems to be terribly famous, but I don’t know for what. I have seen “The Office”, but as that was a British tv show, it cannot really explain his international fame. The “Ricky Gervais Show” is already a post-fame format, that lives off the fact that somebody of the fame format of Gervais moves on to unconventional media formats (podcast and animation). Now that I saw “Extras” and “Life’s too Short”, I understand a bit better how he established his brand, at least in the UK. The recipe is always the same, and it is actually mostly very funny: you have the sad creatures of the media world, those longing for fame and fortunes, and you observe them in their uphill struggle. As in The Office, and also The Ricky Gervais Show, it is important to have spectacular losers around – Gervais is vain, but not too vain to be unable to fill this role himself occasionally, as he did in The Office. Warwick Davis, the dwarf teacher of Harry Potter movie fame, takes it on himself to become the hilarious laughing matter of “Life’s too Short”, he plays his own twisted self (in the spirit of Michael Winterbottom’s “The Trip”), an exaggerated version of his own real life character. He tries to get odd jobs (Ewok at birthday party is not the worst) and insists on his Star Wars and Harry Potter fame, against all empirical evidence to the opposite.

Extras is one rung down the ladder of fame, it features the extras circulating the British tv and movie productions sets like flies the … agricultural waste product. Their intrigues and efforts are funny enough, but often topped by guest appearances of real celebrities (I cannot begin to wonder how difficult it was to get Robert deNiro to do this… and Kate Winslet can be filthy, my goodness)!

This is why British tv can be so great: short stingers into the flesh of good taste, leaving you plenty of time until the next episode to wonder whether it is particularly intelligent of you, the audience, to like this kind of humour, or whether you are just as susceptible to fart and boner jokes as the odd …well, Ricky Gervais.

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